Thursday, January 31, 2008

New York City recap

So I was just in New York City for approximately 18 hours, give or take.

Our band flew up to the Big Apple to participate in a half-hour-long show and interview with Faith Salie, and also some interview with a group called

This is us walking from the Blue Spoon Cafe down the block to the WNYC building, home of PRI, the station where we did our interview and show. I should've taken pictures in the Blue Spoon Cafe, but I ate the most amazing soup and panini there. It was Hungarian Mushroom, and probably is the only soup I've ever had that rivals the Smoky Portabello Mushroom soup from Artist Point, where I used to work.Whoops, I am slipping into Food Network mode...

Some awesome parts about the trip:

1) feeling like a rock star for flying in and out of New York for the day. heck yeah!

2) The interview with Faith Salie--She's apparently some kind of actress and comedian in addition to being a delightful radio host, and she had me laughing all over, even when she jokingly suggested I should grow a beard along with the guys if we ever go to Afghanistan. In my mind I retorted, "No thanks, I'll just wear the burka" but unfortunately that attempt at riposte just sat in my brain.

Also, Ryan and Matt taught Faith some new vocabulary words, including "dross" and "djembe." Always fun to expand the vocab.

This is my view from the piano inside the studio, with Tim on casio in the foreground and Greg on electric: Jeremy's back and Ryan as we're getting our levels and doing sound check:

This is what I see:
This is always what I see. Oh how I miss playing on Steinways:(

I was trying to be all discreet with the self portrait thing, and nixed the flash, hence the blurriness.

3) seeing Brian Cox in the lobby of WNYC.
This must be my week for spotting famous people. I saw Ryan, the radio station guy and some large man walking down the hallway, and for some reason I thought Ryan knew this fellow,(who was wearing a fedora and black overcoat, looking all sinister and important), because Ryan honestly looked like he was trying to pickpocket him, he was trailing Fedora Man so closely. The guy escorted Mr. Fedora to the elevator and then came to attend to the rest of us band members, who were lounging in the lobby. The guy came up to us and said, "That was Brian Cox." "What? Striker from X-Men 2? The bad Treadstone guy from the Bourne Supremacy?" "Yes, yes, that guy. Also, he was in Rushmore." Basically, if he hasn't rung a bell yet in your head, Brian Cox nearly always plays a shady government operative in those political thrillers. Yep. He's THAT GUY. Even if you don't recognize his name, you'd probably recognize him if you saw him.

Unless you see him randomly in a poorly lit radio station lobby near the elevator like me.

He was also in Braveheart, playing William Wallace's crazy, soup-slurping one-eyed uncle, so that's pretty cool right? And also King Agammenon in Troy (Yes, the one where Orlando Blooms' hormones cause the downfall of an entire nation...)

3) The crazy awesome Japanese food that rewarded us after all of our trekking around Manhattan.
I think it was called Sappora East, located in the East Village on Tenth Street and 1st. At any rate, the food was marvelous and pretty reasonably priced for what you get. I had the loveliest bowl of miso soup I'd ever had, a nice perfectly dressed ginger salad, pork dumplings, something like 10 pieces of sushi and chicken teriyaki.

4) Just being in New York with all of the shiny happy people. Whoever said New Yorkers are unfriendly has not spent any time there. I think I talked to more friendly strangers in those two days than in the past two months in Orlando.

The not so awesome parts:
1) lugging around our equipment and bags through the New York City subway system all day
2) some lame questions that the guys at asked us and the equally lame answers that I gave. I'm glad I'm surrounded by five guys who are witty and articulate and culturally-savvy enough to answer out-of-left field questions completely unrelated to music. I'm going to have to hone my interview ability.
3)Not hearing myself too well during the recording of the first track. The headphone mix seemed to improve by the second song, but it's always scary when you're singing and you can't hear yourself too well. Crazy, not melodious sounding-things can happen in those scary moments. Yowzers.
4) Having to get up at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and book it to the airport to catch a flight that ended up being delayed.

Anyway, how about that LOST season premiere last night? Craaaaazy. The creepy pseudo-Oceanic guy that intimidated Hurley had me hiding behind a couch pillow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

my day at FX International

I just got home from FX International, a sci-fi type of convention here in Orlando, FL. I realized that this open admission fully discloses how much of a dork I truly am, but nevertheless this was my first time ever going to one of these things, and it was actually pretty fun.

The draw for me was getting to meet Nathan Fillion, who starred in the TV series "Firefly," the film "Serenity," as well as guest-starring on LOST as Kate Austen's husband and in "Waitress" with Keri Russell as Dr. Pomatter... (just in case you needed his resume;) Despite all his fine work, he's not exactly a household name.

First of all, the convention was a lot more low-key than I was expecting. I suppose I was thinking there was going to be all kinds of people dressed up in Star Wars costumes, and there were a few, but overall the atmosphere was fairly laid back.

Since my and my friend Matt's main goal was to meet Nathan, and participate in all things Serenity, we scoped out the whole picture/autograph scene, since neither of us had ever been to one of these and we didn't know exactly what we were doing. We stood in a really short line to meet Nathan and have him autograph our Firefly DVD sets. I changed my mind when I got to the front of the line and asked him to sign one of his promo photos. Absolutely LAME that they charge you per signature, but I DID want the thing signed.

He signed it "Melissa, Stay shiny, Nathan Fillion" in shiny silver Sharpie ink, so that was pretty cool I guess. Or shiny, as Browncoats like to say.

Then he, Elizabeth Rohm and Nicolas Brendon participated in a panel discussion, their common thread being director Joss Whedon of course. I realized that Nathan Fillion is completely cheesy when he's answering questions, which I guess is good because it seemed like he's enjoying what he's doing. We also saw him randomly speeding around on one of those electric wheel chair things in the exhibit hall. Matt just kind of said "Fillion" and pointed at him as he sped by. Kind of reminded me in Twister when they randomly say "Cow." Haha.

Then we stood in another line to get a photo taken with Nathan. I guess because he was pretty much the biggest star there, they weren't allowing us to take regular pictures with our cameras.

Ha--I love how this photo looks like it's a family portrait.

And yes, that IS Captain Mal's arm around me. Move over, Inara!

It was cool though because we ended up seeing Nathan at least two more times, and both times he actually remembered our names! He's got to have some crazy pneumonic system going on in his brain, for him to even attempt to remember the names of the hundreds of people he meets every time he goes to one of these things.

Anyway, then we got to meet Ray Park who played Darth Maul in Episode 1 of Star Wars. He was really warm and personable. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. It's not like he's a Sith Lord in real life or anything, right? He also had this delightful British accent.

Then we met Jake Lloyd who played Anakin Skywalker in Episode 1. He told us that he is in his first year of college. He seemed like he's basically just trying to enjoy life as a normal college kid. He's not really interested in making any films at the moment. I guess these conventions are pretty cool for him though. They're probably paying for his tuition!

I met a couple of Power Rangers, although I never really was into them as a kid. I didn't know a ton about the show. I was more of a VR Trooper kind of girl. So I never really understood the whole Power Ranger thing. But I met the two guys who played the Red Ranger, apparently.

I think the thing I was most surprised was how down-to-earth everybody was, particularly Ray Park and Jake Lloyd. Adam West was a bit eccentric, but it was still cool to meet him. Overall, it was interesting to meet people--including some of the comic book artists--mainly because it's nice to see people enjoy their work or whatever they're involved in.

To me, that's the most interesting thing about meeting anybody--finding out what they're passionate about and getting to see them excited about what they're doing, but at the end of the day, most of them are just regular people who are trying to make a living.

Anyway, that was my bit of fun for today. Totally felt like I was feeding the pop-culture machine, but it was still a fun time...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I finally bought Brooke Fraser's "Albertine" album on iTunes this week, even though I've had the single for the past couple of months, ever since I was impressed by Brooke's live performance of the song @ the Hillsong Conference in Orlando.

I tend to be really skeptical of new up-and-coming female artists for some reason. But Brooke's voice and talent for songwriting blew me away. More than that--her honesty and storytelling ability seemed to draw every one into her experience. I become more and more convinced that the story is the thing that invites everybody in. It seems like a darn near impossible thing to maintain a down-to-earth attitude in front a crowd of thousands and thousands of people unless it comes from some place real. But that's what Brooke's story struck me as: earnest and real and honest.

The album overall is pretty good, but the title track is still my favorite. Even though the song is about Rwanda and a response to what happened in 1994, the song brought me back to Tanzania, with its soft insistence that I should "tell the world where I've been."

Monday, January 21, 2008

women in ministry

A friend recently wrote to me in an email about a negative reaction she received from some people since she took a leadership role in a certain church. She asked me what my take on women in ministry was, so I decided to respond.

Here's part of what I wrote to her:

"By the way--that frustrates me to hear that certain people had a negative reaction to your leadership role. This is one thing I've never understood the independent Christian church denomination, quite frankly (assuming that's where the ire came from). For all of the insistence to return to "First Century/New Testament" Christianity, many people seem to ignore the historical precedence of early church Christian women in roles of leadership, namely Priscilla, Phoebe, and Prisca. Mary Magdalene--a woman, not a man--was the first one to see and proclaim the risen Christ. Astonishing to me that such an important detail in the story of resurrection is often overlooked or trivialized.

I believe there is a form of headship of the man over the woman (in both church and marriage), though not in the generally understood sense, apparently. In the church anyway, I believe that men are designed to be the leaders, the shepherds, the pastors, so to speak, and as a matter of personal preference I think I would only want to be part of a fellowship where the ultimate leadership is a man. I think that's the order of things that God ordained, not to oppress or abuse power, but to demonstrate a facet of His nature: a kingship, a head.

But I believe that if no men are available to fill certain roles: teaching, evangelizing, worship leading, etc., then women are just as valuable and ordained and set apart to step up. There were no strong, godly men in the time of Deborah, so God called her forth to lead. If there are women who are called, capable, gifted and willing to serve, then they should be empowered to. Eve was called a "helper" and this is not in a quaint "Daddy's little helper" meaning. God is also frequently proclaimed in Scripture as being our "help," and I think the same strength and significance and purpose is infused in our identity as women..."

Thoughts? This is certainly a touchy issue for many...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Art and Time

One thing I wish the independent Christian Church did more of was celebrating the significance of how God moves through time.

My friend sent me this link which celebrates the liturgical year through painting. This was featured at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. which I was first idle and later fortunate enough to bother to visit last year. Each color choice and brush stroke is intended to celebrate some form of interaction between God and humanity. Revelation.

I especially love the section on Epiphany. I use that word occasionally, most often comically, due to the fact that my first introduction to that word was the movie Hook in the dialogue between Hook and Smee:

"I've just had an apostrophe."
"I think you mean an epiphany."
"Lightning has just struck my brain."
"Well that must hurt."

Anyway in the enjoyment of such comedic frivolity, I neglected to truly mine the meaning out of the word.

The website says "Epiphany is an astonishing word that suggests the unfurling of a great mystery. Chinn remarks, 'Epiphany brings the wonder of that Incarnation present and available to all people of the earth.'"

And later on Lent: "Lent is the season that inexorably leads us to the cross of Good Friday, where we recall a dark night of the soul. We journey to Golgotha where light and dark collide and we are blind-sided by death."

Recently I was reading through Eugene Peterson's "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" and one part in particular struck me. Peterson wrote about the validity of each person's experience of the "absence of God." Meaning, since Christ himself experienced the aching, burning question of "My God, my God why have You forsaken Me?" that we should not consider extreme doubt and questioning to be a symptom of unbelief, but rather compelling evidence for the presence of real belief. For if Christ himself uttered such words in anguish, being held captive to the "dark night of the soul" for a season in life brings us closer to the mind and heart of Christ, and therefore a deeper, richer encounter with God.

Anyway, if you have the time, I hope you check out the link.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ani, Manhattan and the Matrix

I recently realized that I have been a fair-weather fan of Ani DiFranco. My good friend Amanda got me into her a few years ago, thanks to a homemade, amazing, massive, slightly schizophrenic (and I mean this in the oft incorrectly-used medical sense) four-disc compilation that had everything from Allison Krauss and Van Morrison to The Postal Service and G. Love and Special Sauce. And of course, Ani Difranco.

I think the first song I heard of Ani’s that I really liked was “The Arrivals Gate.” There was just something beautiful and true-to-life about her take on people-watching. I mean, people write songs about people-watching all the time, but not like this, first waxing a bit sentimental about people hugging and being happy, then coloring the reality with:

I just wanna drain my pink little heart
Of all it’s malice
And kick back for the afternoon
In this fluorescent palace
Everybody’s in a hurry
Here in purgatory
Except for me
I’m where I need to be

And the one that made me a fan was “I Know This Bar.” There was this strange, evocative marriage between the instrumental motif and the imagery in her lyrics that I just loved. And the witty play on words sold me:

I know this song
With this one really killer line
I don’t remember it exactly
But it slays me every time

That’s one of the lines that makes me go, “Wow, everyone knows what that means.” During college, I always liked listening to that song at 1 or 2 in the morning when I’m restless enough not to want to go to sleep, but pensive enough to warrant some late night candle-lighting and melancholic self-reflection;)

The banjo from “Not Angry Anymore” just hit me in a certain way, in all its celebratory, weathered and unapologetic claim of happiness. I am always amazed at her seemingly endless supply of wit, insight and defiance that simply forces every listener to constantly reevaluate culture.

Still, I recently realized that Ani is one of those artists that sometimes I hear a tune of hers come on, and I absolutely love the instrumentation and then she starts to sing and I become distracted by some weird voice inflection of hers that is just a bit too edgy for me and the mood I happen to be in. Sometimes there is simply too much pain and honesty and edge and anger in her voice, which is why I avoid her sometimes. Sometimes I just need the vocal simplicity and beauty of Norah or now Mindy.

Her songs hurt. Sometimes they make me mad at her, and I don’t always agree with her political, moral or philosophical assumptions, but more often than not, they alert me to me and my culture’s own insistence on self-obsession, ignorance, comfort, artistic sloppiness and emotional stuntedness.

So all this to say, recently I’ve been getting into Ani again, after a long withdrawal. I heard this song “Fuel” recently off of her new record “Overlap”:

People used to make records
As in a record of an event
The event of people playing music in a room
Now everything is cross-marketing
Its about sunglasses and shoes
Or guns and drugs
You choose


Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about
Anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage systems and the PATH train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There's a fire just waiting for fuel

It kind of reminded me of a lecture I heard when I took a History of the Holocaust class. Scholars, historians, politicians, social critiquers and the like have dissected the central question that inevitably arises after such a dark, horrific event in human history: How did this happen?

One of the reigning explanations, specifically on the relationship between Hitler and the Holocaust is this fire theory, widely supported by historians today, and loads more nuanced and complex than the simple A + B + C = World War II version we learn in high school. However, in a significantly dumbed down version: the combination of the aftermath and consequences of World War I (an entire generation, in trial by fire, introduced to the horrors of war, not to mention a perfected military technique and technology), the prevalent social Darwinism and biological determinism seeping down into the collective consciousness of the day, dire economic conditions, even the influence of nationalist student fraternities, populism, radicalism, any array of social and political conditions, including a vacuum of political power created the necessary ingredients for the “perfect storm,” a “fire” if you will, that led to the systematic mass killing of 12 million people, for which the rise of Hitler was merely the spark that set the whole of society’s crisp, already waiting-tinder afire.

I don’t know if that’s what Ani meant when she wrote about the fire or the fuel, but that’s the imagery I got: underneath a mass of society and all its concrete and glass, muck and mess of human relationships, there is an assumed invincibility about our culture that is paradoxically understated and passed over, and while often grossly overstated and marketed, but never plainly set forth and acknowledged to be a falsity.

And it's entirely possible that a spark can come along and expose it for what it truly is, likely with grave consequences.

Security and comfort is an illusion that we buy into daily. I buy into it with my casual use of time and my often mindless consumption in lieu of thoughtful engagement.

I’m still learning. But it’s a bit like being caught in the Matrix, isn’t it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Not to harp on about this because if you have talked to me in the past 2 weeks, I've probably sat you down and made you listen to this, but despite the mediocre visual quality of this video (not to mention you can barely see Marketa), I think they sound really great.

Monday, January 14, 2008

my dream log

Every once in awhile, I have these vivid, crazy dreams. I have had a couple memorable ones lately, so I thought I’d share, before they diffuse into the black hole that is commonly known as my memory…

For starters, I had quite a scary dream that I was with a bunch of friends and for some reason we were staying overnight in a cheap motel. I went outside and noticed that there was a sketchy guy that was watching and following me. I was scared he would follow me back to our room, so I began to book it, and he began to chase me. I made it to the motel room alright and slammed the door behind me. I told my friends about Sketchy Man and we collectively decided it would be a good idea to call the police.

Unfortunately, somehow by calling 911 that alerted the police to my presence which apparently was not a good thing. Suddenly, they were after ME. I don’t know why. I hadn’t done anything illegal (as far as I know)…

After splitting up from my friends, I remember running through the streets of an enormous, unfamiliar, extremely modern city. There was one particularly large and imposing concrete building that I remember running through as I was evading and avoiding the sound of police sirens.

Fortunately for me, I had somewhat of a flying ability. Not quite Superman-esque, but I could at least take large leaps in the air, covering an entire city block in one bound, much like how Peter Parker can run and leap across adjoined buildings.

So that definitely helped me stay one step ahead of the police for most of the pursuit. Not bad when you can leap buildings in a single bound.

I somehow got the idea that it would be smart to disguise myself, so I ducked into a hat shop in a mall. Only one problem, as you may or may not know, I have a major hat fetish, a quirk that unfortunately translated into my dream. I spent about 15 minutes in the hat shop, trying on a number of different hats, mostly plaid but I saw a couple cute dark red ones. Eventually, I noticed the shop owner nervously clutching a phone in one hand and looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

I figured that somehow the police had sent out a wire to be on the lookout for me, faxing my picture to all law enforcement agencies and shop owners apparently. Then I realized that they probably already had access to my account information. So I realized that as soon as I swiped my credit card to buy the hat, they would know exactly where I was. Then I realized that I probably should just go to an ATM and dump as much cash as I could out of my account, in case I had to stay on the run for awhile. So I finally gave up on buying a hat.

The shop owner tried to block me from leaving the store, but I somehow made it past him. Then I heard the sirens.

So I started running/leaping/semi-flying away.

I made it safely away.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was in the Old Town section of a smaller European city, and it looked a bit like Heidelberg. The buildings were older and the streets had more of a cobblestone look. I ran into a friend from high school. At first she was friendly to me, but then she accused me of stealing her boyfriend (which also was not true), but she threatened to turn me into the police as revenge.

Then I woke up.

So essentially, the dream was about me running away. Chasing dreams are quite normal apparently. I was glad that I could at least somewhat fly in this one. That helped in my anxiety to escape the police. I hate those dreams when you’re trying to run away and your feet just sink you down lower into the ground.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this dream reveals anything particularly flattering about me. Running away in dreams for me often signifies that I am attempting to avoid confrontation, which is usually true. I have gotten better over the years at confronting, but it’s not my strongest suit. Also it tends to signify that I am anxious about something. Which is probably true.

I also had a dream last night that I went to a Brooke Fraser concert, and met her afterwards. I think this may be due to the fact that I fell asleep listening to “Albertine” on my iPod and that worship band sang “Hosanna” at Status last night. But who knows.

In the dream, Brooke actually seemed a bit withdrawn and none-too-psyched about meeting people after her show for some reason, which I can’t imagine happening in real life because she seemed really open-hearted and easy going at the conference, but in my dream, I began to tell her about Hananasif and she was keenly interested in the orphanage. We began to swap stories about our experiences in East Africa. In the end, she seemed really interested in supporting the orphanage.

The Running Dream inspired me to write a song called “Say Good-bye.” It’s a bit mainstream sounding, but it’s fun for me to sing, at any rate. It’s definitely not even remotely the best song I've ever written, but it was also good for me to poke fun at my weaknesses with irony and make it sound somewhat melodic;)

Say Good-bye

I grew up in a town
That was born for the wind
And bears anyone, everyone
Farther away, farther away

I came so much closer this time
To being someone who is brave
And marvelous, effortless
At giving away, giving away


Spinning and swaying and breaking away
Taking my cue from the sky
Coming full circle, it’s better this way
I don’t have to say good-bye

Kinder words
Have been spent on beckoning me
But I want your honesty, honestly
When I walk away, I walk away

Spinning and swaying and breaking away
Taking my cue from the sky
Coming full circle, it’s better this way
I don’t have to say good-bye

I’m taking and turning and burning away
All of the things left behind
[i don't like this line so who knows what'll go here...]Maybe some day
I’ll learn how to say good-bye

Friday, January 11, 2008

not to brag, but...

Guess which band is today's #1 indie rock pick on music (cuz Nickleback doesn't count as "indie..."?

That would be... the OaKs.

Heck yeah.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Since I'm pretty much mildly obsessed with this movie I thought it warranted a blog.

I first heard about the movie while listening to this segment on my car radio, featuring one critic's picks for the top 10 Most Overlooked films of 2007. They played a clip of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova singing "Falling Slowly" and even though the clip was barely 20 seconds long I thought it was really beautiful and added it to my Netflix later that day. Also our band leader Ryan emailed us later and told us how amazing it was, which only of course fed my anticipation of watching the film.

The story is incredibly simple: Irish street musician meets a Czech immigrant/pianist, they write and sing songs together and there's a bit of a romance going on. Director John Carney used a long lens, so the whole film has the feel of a homemade documentary. I read somewhere later that the film was made on a shoestring budget of $160,000 after major producers pulled their funding when Cillian Murphy--originally the lead--backed out of the project. So they ended up casting Glen Hansard--lead singer/guitarist of the Irish band the Frames--who was writing the songs for the film anyway. I'm glad Cillian Murphy wasn't it... Creepy Scarecrow from Batman or Psycho from Red Eye. No thanks, man.

I think the scene that seems to be the most memorable and popular among the critics and bloggers in the "Music Store Scene." And with good reason. I think if you've ever sat down with another musician and shared your songs with each other and felt that immediate chemistry, like everything corresponds and fits instantly, that is the exact moment and experience that is captured in that scene. That's pretty much only happened to me once, maybe twice.

Totally did not intend that pun by the way.

Anyway, just a warning... not everybody is going to like this film... This is for all you people that hate it when someone hypes up an independent movie (a la Garden State or Juno) and then you watch it and you're disappointed and if it hadn't been hyped up there's a good chance you would've enjoyed it more...

I did like Juno, as a side note. But that may be a different blog.

There's hardly any dialogue in Once--and where there is, it often consists of strong, hearty Irish (or Czech) f-bombs a plenty; however, music mainly carries the story along. I'm sure some people out there expecting popcorn fluff and special effects will find it boring, but I thought it was an amazing film with a lot of heart that felt really true to life.

The film's two leads Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova recorded an album as a group called The Swell Season and it features a lot of the music from the film. The funny thing is the music is not necessarily intricate or technically impressive... they just play and sing and write with a lot of passion and poignancy and emotion.

My only regret is that I didn't find about this earlier last year. Maybe then I could've caught them in their tour of the U.S. That's what I get for eschewing the Enzian all summer long, right? Blast.

P.S. You can listen to an entire concert of them online here. They play a bunch of their songs and also a Van Morrison cover of Into the Mystic and Bob Dylan's You Ain't Goin' Nowhere.